Feedback for Northern Spain itinerary

Old Jan 8th, 2020, 12:06 AM
  #41  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
Originally Posted by mikelg View Post
Kja, you´re right...Castro Urdiales was, on that itinerary, a place for a stop. But (and I go there often to visit my best friend who lives there) it has recently become impossible for parking (moreover in spring and summer), now that they have regulated parking all over town and at all times, there´s summer residences all over the place and I have to admit that the town has lost all interest to me. From a cozy fishing town, it has turned in a few years into an apartment kingdom. I admit that the old alleys and the bars there still offer a great atmosphere, but parking is so complicated in the center that it´s a nightmare now.

For this itinerary, so full, I think it can be ignored. Wow at your memory about my recommendations!!!
Thanks for clarifying, mikelg -- it sounds like I'm really fortunate to have visited Castro Urdiales when I did, and I once again thank YOU for making sure I included it in my plan for that trip -- at the time, it was well worth seeing, IMO.

No need to be "wowwed" by my memory -- I'm always awed that people like you take the time to help me plan my trips. I don't always act on all the advice I get, but I certainly benefit from hearing from other Fodorites, and I know that my trip to northern Spain was infinitely better than it would have been because you and others took the time to provide your comments. So, once again, eskierrik asko, Mikel!
kja is offline  
Old Jan 8th, 2020, 08:59 AM
  #42  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 353
Maribel, the Michelin guide you recommended just arrived. I have the DK from the library. Now that I have a better sense for an itinerary, I will figure out which Michelin maps that you suggested will provide the most value and then order them. In the meantime, I can read some more and make decisions while we will be babysitting for 2 weeks and the kids are in school. I feel so much better now that I picked the locations “basis” for where to stay. I will use your list of hotel chains to start evaluating accommodation options in these places.

kja, I am with you. I never reserve accommodations that I cannot cancel for 2 reasons:

1. Too risky. At any age, but particularly as one gets older many things can go wrong.
2. I buy travel insurance. In order to have the pre-existing conditions waiver, I have to insure all pre-payments and all non-refundable amounts. As a result, having non-cancellable reservations would make the travel insurance considerably more expensive.

Also as you mentioned, different approaches, strategies for planning a trip can work well for some, but not for others.

The help I got on this forum put me on the right track and I truly appreciate the time the experts spent by offering feedback and advice.
Suzanna is offline  
Old Jan 8th, 2020, 02:19 PM
  #43  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,923
Suzanna,
The Michelin green guide is going to be very helpful as will the DK Northern Spain.

The orange Michelin regional maps 572 (Asturias/Cantabria), 573 (España Norte-Basque Country/Navarra) and 575 (Castilla y León) can be purchased through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
The green Michelin zoom maps 142 (Asturias/Costa Verde), 143 (Costa de Cantabria) and 144 (Pirineos Atlánticos/Pirineo Vasco-Navarro) are the very detailed ones that I simply never leave home without (but I love printed maps and annotate them).
You can try to find the zoom maps on Amazon, but they're not available through B&N. I usually purchase them when in Spain. But in your case it would be wise to have them ahead of time for your planning.
Maribel is online now  
Old Jan 8th, 2020, 03:07 PM
  #44  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 353
Thanks, Maribel. I usually buy from Amazon, I have a Prime account. I will look into it.
Suzanna is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2020, 10:56 AM
  #45  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 353
I started looking for accommodations for Bilbao. Since my sister will be with us, I decided to look for an apartment hotel or apartment with 2 bedrooms in Bilbao. Found two at the following addressees:

8 Santa Clara Kalea 1-C, 48006 Bilbao

Miribilla Kalea Primero derecha, 48003, Bilbao

If you are familiar with Bilbao neighborhoods, are these safe areas? If so, which one would be a better location for us (knowing that we will have a car and out the 4 days we will be there, 2 will be spent in Bilbao and 2 away)? Thanks
Suzanna is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2020, 11:15 AM
  #46  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 1,456
Santa Clara is close to my birthplace and first 22 years of life in Bilbao. Both are safe (Bilbao is a very safe city with a very low crime rate, as the rest of Spain), a normal neighbourhood, very well linked to the old town by metro (one stop) or simply walking. Miribilla is a new area very close to the city center and old town, but not so close to any metro station. Parking in the street is metered (0900 to 1330-1500 to 2000), Mo-Fri and Saturday only in the morning, not many public parkings nearby in any. Parking may be an issue, maybe a bit less in Miribilla (by the way, great Arena in the area). I´d take Santa Clara is location is prime.
mikelg is online now  
Old Jan 16th, 2020, 11:26 AM
  #47  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 353
Thanks a lot mikelg for the quick and very helpful answer. I was inclined already to take the Santa Clara apt. based on its description. They have free parking included. I will reserve and think of you when we will be there.
Suzanna is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2020, 11:30 PM
  #48  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 1,456
It´s a busy, lively neighborhood, full of bars and local atmosphere, you´re going to love it. Built in the 60s for all the immigrants arriving from the rest of Spain to find better job conditions in the factories around Bilbao. Apartment blocks, but safe, lively and very close to Santutxu metro station. I was there yesterday having a few glasses of wine with old friends in the bars in the area.
mikelg is online now  
Old Jan 17th, 2020, 06:58 AM
  #49  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 353
Based on the description, I am sure I will like the area. Thanks.
Suzanna is offline  
Old Jan 17th, 2020, 02:21 PM
  #50  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 353
I am very sad as there are no rooms at the 2 Paradors in Santillana for our nights...

I reserved (cancellable) 2 rooms at Posada Araceli in Santillana (located on Revolgo 20). They have reasonable rates, a simple, inexpensive breakfast and most reviews are positive. Supposedly there is free public parking nearby (we will have a car) The other option is Casa Rural chimenea Cántabra, located 2 km from Santillana, in Oreña. It's a private apartment with 2 bedrooms, for about $50 less, no b-fast.

We will have 2 nights and essentially one day for Santillana. If you are familiar with these locations, I'd appreciate your feedback. Would the stay at Posada Araceli be a more practical one (location wise)?
Suzanna is offline  
Old Jan 17th, 2020, 02:47 PM
  #51  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,923
There is public parking outside of the historic quarter of the village for those staying within the inner core, and vehicles must park in the public lot and must pay a parking fee. But.... the Araceli sits outside of the historic quarter. I visited the street when looking at the Casona de Revolgo. There may be street parking (but not on a weekend when the village gets slammed with day trippers) or the hotel may have a small lot for guests. The booking.com and TA reviews indicate that it does provide free parking.

If you only have one day for visiting Santillana and the neo caves of Altamira, the Posada Araceli is the better option.
Maribel is online now  
Old Jan 17th, 2020, 03:10 PM
  #52  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 1,456
Santillana can be seen in one hour, the neocave (buy tickets in advance) is more a museum than a cave, and I strongly recommend to visit the nearby caves of El Castillo, Las Monedas, Cullalvera, Covalanas...and so on, https://cuevas.culturadecantabria.com/en/, so you can see the real thing and real prehistoric caves and paintings (visits normally in Spanish, but guides speak English and they´ll translate part of the explanations to you). Don´t miss Comillas (El Capricho by Gaudi), Cartes, Liérganes, Carmona...
mikelg is online now  
Old Jan 17th, 2020, 03:29 PM
  #53  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,923
Suzanna,
I agree with mikelg about the neo-cave being more of a museum. As I mentioned upthread, I felt that it wasn't a particularly well done replica like Lascaux II, but it's easily accessible if you don't want to attempt the real thing. Cantabria is Spain's center for Paleolithic art. We loved our visit to El Castillo (with paved trails), Las Monedas and Covalanas, but as mikelg notes, you need to reserve all in advance and upthread you mentioned:

"I am not a “cave person”, I have trouble in places which are not paved (foot problems)
Are there any on the way that have paved “trails” inside and are well lit? Any with lots of stalactites and stalagmites in addition to the Palaeolithic ones?"


The caves of Soplao we found to be very interesting, filled with fascinating stalactites and stalagmites. You're taken into the cave via a mine train and the trail is well lit. For us it was an easy visit, complete accessible. It's a 45-minute drive southwest of Santillana. I believe that kja has visited as well. But again, for all these cave visits, one needs to reserve in advance.
https://www.elsoplao.es/en/a-unique-cave.

Mikelg suggested a visit to lovely, very pretty Liérganes. We've stayed there at a Casona and find the village far, far less touristed than Santillana Del Mar. It's a 35-minute drive southeast of Santillana. And mikelg's other suggestion: Carmona in the stunning Cabuérniga valley is also beautiful and still relatively untouched by tourism. It sits about 45 minutes southwest of Santillana, if you want to visit two still unspoiled, charming, stone villages in the heart of Cantabria on your Cantabria loop.

Last edited by Maribel; Jan 17th, 2020 at 03:41 PM.
Maribel is online now  
Old Jan 17th, 2020, 06:09 PM
  #54  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
Re: Santillana de Mar: Personally, I like to be able to walk to dinner, relax, have some wine, and then stroll through an old town afterwards, so for me, there'd be no question -- I'd take the option in town. YMMV.

As for the caves, Maribel is right (what a memory!), I did visit most of those caves -- and I feel so lucky to have done so! FWIW, my recollections are:
  • Tito Bustillo -- you can only see part, but oh, what a wonderful part it is! As I remember, the surface on which we walked was smooth and flat. It was cold -- bring a wrap!
  • El Soplao -- visited for its unusual geological formations; no prehistoric art. As Maribel described, there's a train (I had forgotten that! but such fun! thanks for the reminder, Maribel!), and I'm pretty sure there are a few places where one gets off and walks around on flat surfaces.
  • Museo de Altamira -- a reproduction, nothing like Lascaux or the Grotte Chauvet, more of an opportunity to see a 3-D recreation of the ceiling, and in that context (and without the expectation of a good reproduction of the art per se), well worth seeing IMO.
  • Hornos de la Peña -- I was extraordinarily lucky to have gone alone and ended up with a guide who knew that cave inside and out and who chose to spend more than 2 hours (rather than the usual hour) with me. I also remember that the ONLY lights were from our respective flashlights. He carefully guided me through areas where the surfaces were relatively flat, but I also remember shimmying into small spaces on my back, with barely enough room to wiggle inside and then reach out for the flashlight he was waiting to hand me. Utterly awesome, and something he admitted was not part of the regular tour.
  • Las Monedas and El Castillo of Monte Castillo (next to one another, so easily paired if you can time the tickets properly) -- wonderful! Again, my recollection is that the main paths were well surfaced. These caves have some spectacular stalactites and stalagmites, in addition to prehistoric art.
If you have any interest in prehistoric art, I'd recommend seeing one or more. For me, they are the places of dreams.

Last edited by kja; Jan 17th, 2020 at 06:43 PM.
kja is offline  
Old Jan 17th, 2020, 06:29 PM
  #55  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,923
What kja said!!!
(El Soplao is even wheelchair accessible)
Maribel is online now  
Old Jan 17th, 2020, 06:45 PM
  #56  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,815
@ Maribel -- thanks for confirming! That I have vivid memories of these caves is, unfortunately, no guarantee that those memories reflect reality.
kja is offline  
Old Jan 17th, 2020, 10:28 PM
  #57  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 353
Thanks a lot Maribel, mikelg and kja for the additional great info and advice. I will stick to (at least for now) with Araceli, to ensure that I have a place to stay that looks acceptable. I will try to look up Casona, Carmona and the other locations mentioned by mikelg, to see how they fit with everything else and the time we will have and also check accommodations some of them offer (maybe instead of Santillana). Based on what you mentioned, I definitely want to visit at least one of the caves with prehistoric art (El Castillo of Monte Castillo seems to be the most accessible one) and El Soplao, in addition to the neocave. Hopefully the reservation for them for September can wait for 2-3 more weeks after I get accommodations. Right now, while baby sitting the grandkids I have only limited time to do the homework.

Maribel, the Araceli has only 5 parking spots and they cannot be reserved. Their description of parking availability is somewhat misleading. Hopefully the public one close to them that they mention will be available and then we can walk to the historic center/use the car as needed to go to all other locations.

Thanks again!

Suzanna is offline  
Old Jan 18th, 2020, 01:37 PM
  #58  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,923
Suzanna,
Thanks for the explanation about the Araceli parking spots. The Araceli is only a short walk to the historic center of Santillana. Santillana does revert in the evening to its pretty medieval self after all the tour buses and day trippers leave and the souvenir shops close. I wasn't too surprised that both Paradors were booked because Santillana is often the first overnight stop for passengers coming off the Portsmouth-Santander ferry.

When we vacation in Cantabria we often choose our accommodations from the Club de Calidad Cantabria Infinita group of mansions, palaces and charming inns. The group includes nice restaurants as well. This is how we found the Casona El Arral in Liérganes.
But for Cantabria, the ones in Santillana aren't in town, and El Arral in Liérganes wouldn't make for a better 2-night home base instead of Santillana because it sits southeast rather than southwest of Santander. You might want to visit it, though, on your way west from Bilbao, as mikelg suggests.

Cantabria Infinita Quality Club.

We found the El Castillo caves to be quite accessible via the 45-minute tour. You don't necessarily need to do the La Moneda as well if you don't have the time. There is a car park and a path that leads up the hill to the entrance to the caves.
After our visit we took a very pleasant walk along the vía verde del Pas, the pedestrian green way in the town of Puente Viesgo, that starts near the Gran Hotel Balneario. The Pas valley, Valle del Pas, is exceptionally pretty. Be sure to try the local sweet treats, Sobaos Pasiegos and Quesadas Pasiegas if you get a chance.

Here's the official link for all the Cantabrian prehistoric caves for your planning-
https://cuevas.culturadecantabria.com.

Maribel is online now  
Old Jan 18th, 2020, 06:25 PM
  #59  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 353
Maribel, many thanks for taking this much time on a weekend for all the details. I have looked already at the local hotel chains that you previously listed, but at least until now I could not find something that is in the locations where we plan to stop and would fit in our budget. Club de Calidad Cantabria Infinita has the Parador and Hotel Casa del Marqués in Santillana. Casa del Marques (for the 2 rooms that we would need) is more than what we could pay. So probably I will just stick to what I already reserved. I am saving on the side all the suggestions, so when I get into the day-by-day planning I have them handy. Thanks again!
Suzanna is offline  
Old Jan 18th, 2020, 06:36 PM
  #60  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,923
You're welcome, Suzanna. I forgot that the Parador and Hotel Casa del Marqués are also member of the Club de Calidad. I don't think that the Hotel Casa del Marqués is really worth the money spent, so don't worry, just keep what you have reserved.
Maribel is online now  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

FODOR'S VIDEO